Have you ever considered fostering a service dog? Depending on your family dynamic, this can be an excellent experience for your kids and yourself. There are organizations out there whose purpose is to train puppies for the purpose of being service dogs for the blind, the deaf or for those with other medical problems. The idea is that some families – maybe even yours! – volunteer to take these puppies into their homes and raise them until they are ready to leave the agency to be trained. Eventually, when the puppy is older, and fully trained, it leaves the agency and goes to its forever home, the home of someone in need of a service dog.
- What’s my job? It would be the job of your family, as the foster family, to feed and care for the puppy, take it to regular veterinarian appointments, teach it basic obedience, such as how to come when called, walk on a leash, sit, stay, and lay down. You will probably be required to bring the dog to an obedience class approved by the agency. You will be asked to socialize the puppy as much as possible. Remember, the dog’s future work environment will bring him across other dogs and animals, children, adults, and a wide variety of environments. So it’s important that he get as much exposure to these things as possible while being fostered.
- What’s the catch? The tricky thing here really isn’t raising the puppy; it’s the fact that you will have to give the puppy back sooner or later. Usually, you will get the puppy at around seven or eight weeks old, and you will have to give him back to the agency at somewhere between fourteen to eighteen months old. This can be very difficult, as your family will certainly grow attached to your foster puppy in that amount of time. It will be easier if you can keep in mind that you’re doing a good deed, both for your puppy, who will get a loving forever home, and for a person who needs a service dog to assist him in maintaining his independence. If you have done a good job with the first puppy, you may be allowed to foster again. Also, if your puppy fails to successfully complete training, you may get the opportunity to adopt him as a family pet.
- Is fostering right for my family? This, of course, depends on you and your family. Children old enough to understand the concept of fostering who are also animal lovers may greatly benefit from this experience. You may even find yourself raising a budding veterinarian or sevice dog trainer. On the other hand, it might be too upsetting for small or particularly sensitive children to have to say good bye to their foster puppy. Consider the dynamic of your family carefully before deciding to become a foster family.
Now that you know more about the process of fostering a future guide dog, you can decide if this experience is right for your family. Look for training agencies in your local area for specific information and application instruct ions.